(BIVN) – During the Hawaiʻi County Council Finance Committee meeting in Hilo on Monday, three TMT supporters shared their concerns about safety and law enforcement in light of what might happen next on Mauna Kea.
The testifiers were commenting on a council request for a report from the administration “regarding the extent of county agency activity” on the mountain.
“My biggest concern is the safety of all involved – the civilians, the construction workers, the protectors – while the transport and construction takes place,” said Yvonne Verburgt, a retired chemist and substitute teacher at Hilo Union Elementary School. “No one wants expressing opinions to be dangerous for the workers or anyone else. I trust the local officials will respond to conditions accordingly. That includes, of course, the responsibility to enforce the law and protect everyone’s safety.”
“It seems that the real question today is whether the institutional will exists to enforce the law, to enforce what courts and elected officials have found to be just,” testified Lukas Kambic, a biologist at the UH-Hilo. “Quite simply, obstructing roads is not peaceful protest. And also, misleading claims that are designed to spread like wildfire on social media are just not a sound basis for policy making.”
“Despite their fierce passion, I do not believe that telescope opponents represent the people of Hawaiʻi, as polls have repeatedly shown,” Kambic said. “I don’t believe they represent the human spirit of exploration and adventure that brought people on their incredible journeys to these islands. I asked the council please do what you can stand up for the law and enforce the law.”
“I want to be clear in stating that the law enforcement is very necessary because of the actions of some of the opponents,” said TMT supporter Rob S. “Over the last four years, there have been hundreds of death threats, and threats of grave bodily injury directed at TMT employees. This is a fact, and it’s scary.”
“This has been documented,” Rob told the council. “The death threats have been recorded, documented and archived. They’re in voicemail boxes, they’re on social media, they’re on video. There’s many many of them they have been forwarded to the law enforcement community. ”
“There’s fear in the community because of these threats,” Rob said. “I’m not making this up, this is actually true and this is something that’s of real concern. It should be of concern to all of us. Mauna Kea is sacred. The astronomy community agrees. We all agree that Mauna Kea is indeed sacred. And we also believe that science and culture can peacefully coexist.”
“Legislators are very bound by following the law and the process,” commented Council Fincance Committee Chair Maile David after the testimony, “and so along with the laws that you cite, I believe in Hawaiʻi we also have laws that protect the rights of the Native Hawaiians to access, gather, and practice. So those are other laws that we as a body have to consider, but that issue is not before us today.”